Ask Dr. Helen: Love and Politics

The first question for today's column is sure to spark some debate.

Given your blogging on men's rights issues, I'm curious what is

your opinion of same-sex marriage? The "Insta-husband" has blogged in favor, but

I would disagree for this reason. Marriage does more than validate a

romantic relationship between two individuals. It also legitimizes the

relationship between men and their children. While men and women certainly

disagree over the relative importance of each, allowing marriage between

same-sex couples declares that society finds the latter reason irrelevant.

It effectively makes fatherhood fungible. What's your opinion on the


First, let me start by saying that I am for gay marriage. As a right-leaning

libertarian, I believe that people should be able to enter into whatever

relationship they wish with other competent adults without state

intervention. If men want to marry other men and women want to marry other

women, have at it. Marriage is more than about children, although that is

important. It is about companionship and spending your life, possibly your

finances, and your time with a significant other and that may include

another person of the same sex. How does that jibe with my support of men's

rights? Some men are gay, some gay men have children; they should also have

equal rights under the law. I don't think that allowing gay marriage says

that fatherhood is not important, it simply expands the role of fatherhood

to include gay men with children.

That said, what I am against is militant gay groups who refuse to allow room

for other views--they use politics to shut down, shut up, or get people who

say anything against gays fired or worse. You would think that a group who

has been discriminated against would understand what that is like and

restrain themselves from taking revenge on others who hold different beliefs

on issues of homosexuality. I can accept that other readers have different

views than myself on the role of fatherhood and gay marriage and that they

have a right to express their views. Please do so in the comment section if

you have something to add.

The next question is from Kate, who emails from her Blackberry:

I have a formerly close friend who appears to have many of the

symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. Her behavior was controlled

enough for several years and she was a reasonably fun person to be around.

Due to a tragedy in her family last July, her ability to restrain her temper

and other compulsions seems to have gone rapidly out of control. It is

difficult to maintain a friendship with someone who either thinks that

butter won't melt in your mouth or that you are her worst enemy on an

alternating basis. I feel drained and used up. Her husband is at his wits

end and desperately trying to hold things together. My husband and I like

and respect him a great deal. I have tried to be supportive but lately it

has been easier to remain out of it. He spends his time trying to placate

her no matter how unreasonable her demands. My gut tells me that this is

the worst thing he could do. We have turned down social invitations that

would involve this couple in order to avoid having to deal with the

hysterics and blame game this woman constantly engages in. She has also

spent them deeply into a debt that they may never recover from. If I

confront her about her unreasonable behavior, the hate will be a white hot

laser beam. If I say nothing I feel that I am tacitly endorsing her

unreasonable view of the world and her place in it.

First question; what do you think about these symptoms and Borderline

Personality Disorder? Is it real, is it psychiatric or is just a case of

spoiled "child-like" narcissism run amok? Second, what if anything can I

do? Am I better of just breaking off the friendship with both of them

totally until this situation resolves itself assuming it ever will? Thanks

for any helpful hints. Kate

Dear Kate,

Your gut is correct, trying to placate this unreasonable behavior will only

bring more of the same. You do not say if your friend was actually diagnosed

with Borderline Personality or if this is a diagnosis you sense from her

behavior. Borderline Personality is a real diagnosis that is made based on a

constellation of personality traits such as a pattern of unstable and

intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between

extremes of idealization and devaluation, affective instability due to a

marked reactivity of mood, inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty

controlling anger and transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe

dissociative symptoms. A mental health professional generally makes this

diagnosis if criteria are met according to the DSM-IV.

You must remember that you are a friend, not a therapist to this woman or to

her husband. It is not your job to treat her condition or confront her about

her spending unless she is taking money from you, in which case, do not lend

it to her. If you treasure this couple's friendship and feel that it is

worth the time, you can set some boundaries with her. Do not placate her but

rather tell her what behavior you are willing to accept. For example, if she

flies into a rage, tell her that you cannot be around her when she is this

angry. Do not tell her how to feel, this will only enrage her--tell her that

when she is calm, you can discuss her concerns like adults, otherwise, get

out of the situation. As far as her husband, only he can change his

behavior; giving in to her will increase the frequency of her outbursts but

again, you are not his therapist. If you feel that he is receptive, you

might try telling him about helpful books for this condition such as that Walking on

Eggshells, that discusses how to cope with Borderline Personality

in someone you love. You can see more about Borderline Personality as well

as view comments by those dealing with this disorder by reading a post I did on the topic here. Thanks for your question.

Finally, the last question I have to share is one I stole from Norman

Geras's blog. Norm's blog does a weekly profile on bloggers and profiled

me here. I found the following question on the profile to be the most


Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term

relationship with, someone with radically different political views from

your own?

My answer: I would hope so. I value qualities of bravery, courage and

strength. As long as I felt the person had these qualities, their political

beliefs are not that important. I would hope that they would have the

flexibility to be tolerant of my beliefs, however.

Honestly, one thing I have noticed in terms of dealing with others who have

different political beliefs is that the more someone espouses how "tolerant

and liberal they are," the less they seem to be able to tolerate views of

those who have different views from themselves, particularly in

interpersonal relationships.

What do you think, could you be married or in a long term relationship with

someone with different political views? Tell us why or why not.

Drop a line in the comments and share your thoughts on any of the questions

above. Or if you have a question you would like answered, please leave it

below or email me at [email protected]. Your questions may be edited for length and clarity. Please note that your first

name only or no name at all will be used to identify your question--if you

want me to use your name, tell me, otherwise you will be referred to by your

first name or as "a reader" etc.

This advice column is for educational and entertainment purposes only and

does not purport to replace therapy or psychological treatment.